Fall 2018

PLUS275

Sun Tzu's The Art of War for Modern Life (55+)

Written more than 2,000 years ago, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is one of the most significant books in the history of military thinking. Its 13 chapters cover such topics as planning, strategy, tactics, energy, weakness, strength, espionage and generalship. For centuries, the book has influenced military practice around the world, and it is still recommended on the Canadian Army Reading List. More recently, its guidance has also been successfully applied to business and everyday life.

Our chapter-by-chapter reading of this ancient masterpiece will focus on its relevance to modern times and to self-improvement. You will be able to appreciate the wisdom of Sun Tzu’s writing and make connections between it and the challenges we all face today.

Note: Back by popular demand, from fall 2013.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Vancouver 5 Christine Wong $96.00 34 -

What will I learn?

Week 1: Who Reads The Art of War?

The Art of War is more than a book of military strategies, but a “must-read” for everyone. We will discuss the background of Sun Tzu’ s life and offer guidelines for reading The Art of War.

Week 2: Warfare Fundamentals

We will read the first four chapters of The Art of War: Laying Plans, Waging War, Attack by Stratagem, and Tactical Dispositions. We will also examine the factors fundamental to winning any war.

Week 3: Strategic Opportunities

We will continue to read Chapters 5 to 8: Energy, Weak and Strong, Engaging the Force, and The Nine Variations. The focus of these chapters is on the need for creativity and flexibility.

Week 4: Situational Positioning

We will cover Chapters 9 to 11, looking at the three general areas of resistance – distance, dangers, and barriers – and the six ground positions arising from them. Familiar battles in British and American history will illustrate Sun Tzu's principles.

Week 5: Success

The last two chapters of The Art of War deal with espionage. We will analyze the five types of intelligence sources and how best to manage each. We will further investigate the five principles of generalship and examine how they can be incorporated into personal development and contemporary leadership.

Week 6: The Importance of The Art of War Today

The Art of War has been applied to many fields. The principles Sun Tzu laid out are used in business, organization strategy, developing management skills, or even football matches. In this last session, we will explore how these principles relate to real-life and consider them in action.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

There is recommended reading for this course.

Any version of  Sun Tzu’s The Art of War

This book will be available from the SFU Bookstore or at your local or online bookstore.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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